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In and around Saigon - Riches of the Mekong #10

We leave our AmaWaterways ship by 8:30 on route to Saigon.  This is another in our series on AmaWaterways Riches of the Mekong river cruise.  Our previous post, Last night on AmaDara, described our last night on the ship.

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is littered in old US Vietnam war equipment Saigon's War Remnants Museum had a good collection of US military equipment

Chinese in Vietnam

After about an hours drive we stop at a Chinese temple for what is affectionately known as a "happy stop" (a bath room).  The temple reeks of incense which is burning all over as worshipers come to pray. This is not a religion per ce, it's a place for anyone to "make a wish" (good luck or for good grades or a safe trip).

We arrive at the hotel (Sofitel Saigon), have the included lunch and check into our rooms.  The Sofitel was a bit late in clearing our rooms so many of us waited in the lobby.  Then we're off to three planned stops.

A White House in Saigon

In Saigon, the former presidential palace for South Vietnam Beautiful lacquer room within the former presidential palace

Former President of South Vietnam residence, Saigon Former President of South Vietnam residence

First we went to "Reunification palace". This is the residence of South Vietnam's president prior to the fall of Saigon.  It was interesting to see how a former leader lived.  The residence is currently used only for the occasional rental for conferences.

The residence include war rooms, ambassador meeting rooms, living quarters for the president's family and an extensive bunker system to protect in case of an attack.  To learn more, you can click on this link.

The Vietnam war from the North Vietnamese perspective

The US supported the French during the 50's This exhibit at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon showed the build up to the war during the 1950's. Note the picture of VP Richard Nixon

Next we visited the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. The Museum had several exhibits including ones dedicated to the French occupation stemming from colonial times, the American involvement (including troops lost), the use of Agent Orange, photographer's recordings of the horrors of war.  Outside, the museum has a nice collection of US military hardware including tanks, large caliper guns and air craft.

Clearly the Vietnamese government (the victors, if you will) uses the museum as propaganda.  Still, as one of my colleagues said. 'they were not totally wrong.  We did a lot of stupid things.'  I can't say I walked through the museum with pride or patriotism, but it was simply a surreal feeling to be standing in an ostensibly communist country reviewing the Vietnamese war.

Marketing in Saigon

Saigon with AmaWaterways Ben Thanh Market In Saigon teems with stalls carrying virtually everything you can think of.

Finally we arrive at the Central market (the Ben Thanh Market).  As is typical of many of the local markets just about everything was sold at this market.  There's over 2000 stalls selling everything from made to order suits, to scarves, food or kitchen wares.

After another hot, humid day, we arrive back at the hotel, shower and are ready for dinner.

There's so many images in our head from today.  This is a communist country politically but certainly not economically.  The  capitalists are booming in Saigon.   But the images of the Vietnam War are what will stick with us longest.

The presidential palace was never bombed in Saigon; a previous building had been Significant communication room within the bunker under the presidential palace

In Saigon troop transport copters The War Remnants museum shows the integral part this helicopter had during the way









Tunneling below

Our second day in Saigon we decide to stay in town and not to go on the excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels.  This is an extensive underground network of tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh City that were constructed by the Vietnamese military and used throughout the war.  This was a 25 year long effort and it enabled the Viet Cong to move around the countryside undetected.  The tour included walking through the forest trails, through the tunnels discovering hidden entrances, booby traps and air vents.

Here's an excellent description of the construction and use of the tunnels by the History Channel.

Above Ground Saigon

We took a couple of walks around Saigon to get a feel of the city.  It's much closer to Shanghai 20 years ago than to Hanoi today.  Construction is all around and it's impossible not to get caught up in all the investment going on.  There's a plethora of high end shops, malls and restaurants.  The streets are wide and tree lined.   There are many parks scattered around the city lending the feeling of relaxation to the city.

We have one more blog post in our Riches of the Mekong series - Impressions and Summary.

Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City still has many examples of French architecture Saigon Post office, from the French Colonial period.

View from the 19th floor of the Saigon Sofitel View from the 18th floor of the Saigon Sofitel

This building acts as Saigon's City Hall. Another great example of French inspired architecture. This building acts as Saigon's City Hall. Another great example of French inspired architecture.

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